Let’s put this year’s Thanksgiving meal into perspective. Thanksgiving today is certainly no worse than what we were taught about the first one. Racial strife? Check! Aside from that hallowed feast, war between Native Americans and white colonists was the norm then. In fact, some historians say that the first Thanksgiving was in 1637, when Massachusetts Colony Governor John Winthrop declared a day of gratitude after colonists slaughtered more than 700 members of the Pequot tribe. Pandemic? Check! Many Native Americans were wiped out by smallpox, brought to the Americas by the colonists, who inexplicably called it the “Indian plague.” We have the “Chinese virus”! Standing in line in a crowded grocery store is indeed scary this year. But what if you had to go out and shoot your turkey, and then pluck and disembowel it? What if you had to grow or forage all your vegetables, clean them without running water, store them without refrigeration, and cook everything over wood, as they did back then? We have it so much easier.
This holiday is about passing down traditions, so perhaps you’d appreciate some more perspective laced with guilt, my mother’s favorite form of argument. Many of you have canceled plans for a big Thanksgiving meal involving families driving in from around the country. You’ll now be cooking for only yourself or maybe those in your immediate household, and you’re upset about that? More than 12 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and more than a quarter of a million people have died. More than 14 million Americans are food insecure. Having too much turkey is not a bad thing, if you’re lucky to have this problem, and we have freezers and vacuum sealers. For many Native Americans, this is a day of mourning. Perhaps it is time we rethink this “holiday” anyway. The world is a mess. Cooking for Thanksgiving this year—even if it is for fewer people—is something you can at least control.